Evolution in the News - May 2010
by Do-While Jones

Dangerous Aliens

Stephen Hawking fears that space aliens may have evolved into a threat to humanity.

Ironically, just as Arizona passed a law to protect its citizens from illegal aliens, Stephen Hawking warned the citizens of Earth about the potential threat of space aliens. His series on the Discovery Channel was well publicized in advance.

Professor Stephen Hawking of the University of Cambridge, makes remarks at an event marking the 50th anniversary of NASA, Monday, April 21, 2008, at George Washington University in Washington. 1

The aliens are out there and Earth had better watch out, at least according to Stephen Hawking. He has suggested that extraterrestrials are almost certain to exist — but that instead of seeking them out, humanity should be doing all it that can to avoid any contact. 2

Hawking’s logic on aliens is, for him, unusually simple. The universe, he points out, has 100 billion galaxies, each containing hundreds of millions of stars. In such a big place, Earth is unlikely to be the only planet where life has evolved. 3

Stephen Hawking's Universe begins on the Discovery Channel on Sunday May 9 at 9pm. 4

It turned out that the series actually began on May 2, and the program on space aliens aired on May 10.

Beautiful Dreamer

In the introduction to these TV programs, Hawking introduces himself as a “physicist, cosmologist, and something of a dreamer.” That’s why it should come as no surprise that his dream world has little, if any, similarity to the real world. This was crystal clear in the May 2 broadcast, which dealt with how the universe began.

How It All Began

It is Hawking’s belief that gravity caused hydrogen atoms to clump together shortly after the Big Bang. He showed how this happened using simulated ball bearings on a dining room floor. He explained that if the ball bearings were perfectly spaced, they would remain in place. Any given ball bearing would have another ball bearing to the north of it, pulling it north, but there would be another ball bearing to the south of it, pulling it south. Similarly, the gravitational pull of the ball bearing to the east would be cancelled out by the gravitational pull of the ball bearing to the west, so there would be no motion in any direction.

But, Hawking said, the universe isn’t perfect. So he removed a few of the ball bearings in his simulation. As soon as he did, the imbalance of the gravitational forces caused the simulated ball bearings to start to roll together into clumps; then the clumps rolled towards each other. This supposedly showed how gravity caused hydrogen atoms to clump together to form stars which clumped together to form galaxies.

His presentation was extremely compelling—unless you thought about it. There were two obvious flaws.

Who Needs Experiments?

First, why did he go to all the trouble to create the simulation when it would have been easier to just do the experiment? It takes a talented programmer to create a virtual dining room and calculate how simulated gravity would cause virtual ball bearings to roll. But any camera crew could clear all the furniture out of a room, heave a box full of ball bearings out onto the floor, and film the balls as gravity caused them to clump together.

He didn’t do the experiment because it doesn’t work the same way in the real world as it does in Hawking’s dream world. Gravity isn’t strong enough to make ball bearings clump together like that. But we are supposed to believe gravity caused hydrogen atoms to clump together because simulated ball bearings clump together (even though real ball bearings don’t). To a theoretical physicist, theoretical equations are more compelling than actual experiments, so experiments aren’t really necessary.

The second flaw is that it doesn’t matter if gravity causes ball bearings to clump together or not. What we want to know is if gravity causes hydrogen atoms to clump together to form stars. So, unless one can prove that the analogy between hydrogen atoms and ball bearings is a good analogy, it doesn’t matter what ball bearings do.

If one wants to know if gravity can cause hydrogen atoms to clump together, then one should do experiments with hydrogen atoms. Because heat is better at keeping hydrogen molecules apart than gravity is at keeping them together, one has to cool hydrogen gas down to -253 oC (-423 oF) at 1 atmosphere of pressure to get it to liquefy. 5 If gravity were strong enough to pull hydrogen atoms together, it would not be necessary to push them together with a pressure of nearly 15 pounds per square inch at close to absolute zero temperature.

Helium atoms eventually diffuse out of a rubber balloon. Even when aided by rubber, gravity isn’t strong enough to keep helium atoms (which are heavier than hydrogen atoms) clumped together.

In Hawking’s theoretical world, gravity might be able to pull hydrogen molecules together with no pressure at the incredibly high temperatures that were supposedly present immediately after the Big Bang; but it has never been observed to happen in the real world.

Space Aliens

The second program in the series dealt with these questions:

Do aliens exist? If so, where could they be found? What do they look like? What are they made of? Are they intelligent? If we met them, what would it mean for humankind? 6

A dreamer can answer these questions, but a scientist can’t. Scientists need data—dreamers don’t.

No scientist can tell what space aliens look like, what they are made of, how smart they are, or how aggressive they might be. There have been no experimental observations the scientist could base those conclusions upon (despite Dan Aykroyd’s claims that alien abductions have actually occurred).

Lacking any real data, Hawking falls back on “the universal power of evolution.” He believes that since evolution created all forms of life here on Earth, it must have created all the rest of the life in the universe.

Life on Europa

Europa [yur-ROH-pah] is a unique moon of Jupiter that has fascinated scientists for hundreds of years. Its surface is among the brightest in the solar system, a consequence of sunlight reflecting off a relatively young icy crust. Its face is also among the smoothest, lacking the heavily cratered appearance characteristic of Callisto and Ganymede. Lines and cracks wrap the exterior as if a child had scribbled around it. Europa may be internally active, and its crust may have, or had in the past, liquid water which can harbor life. 7

Hawking believes that life can evolve anywhere there is water, so he thinks it is “reasonable” to believe there is life on Europa. Not only that, he says,

I think it is even reasonable to guess at some of their physical features. 8

Guessing in the absence of data is neither science, nor “even reasonable.” But Hawking’s imagination shows no boundaries. He says,

Perhaps there are really exotic creatures that live at the center of stars. 9

True science is a reliable method to increase knowledge. Great scientists of the past have used the scientific method to learn tremendous things and solve great mysteries. That’s how science obtained such great respect.

In recent years true science has been replaced with speculation driven by philosophical and political beliefs. This false science has been used to give credibility to those philosophical and political beliefs. The theory of evolution is central to those philosophical and political beliefs.

Hawking’s Universe

In Hawking’s theoretical universe, life began spontaneously on planets all over the universe; despite the fact that scientists have not been able to create any environment in the laboratory in which that happens. In Hawking’s universe, simple life forms evolved into menacing space aliens which threaten Earth. Hawking’s universe exists only in Hawking’s mind. Please don’t confuse his speculation with science.

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Footnotes:

1 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/04/22/stephen-hawking-on-extrat_n_97953.html
2 http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/science/space/article7107207.ece
3 ibid.
4 ibid.
5 http://www-safety.deas.harvard.edu/services/hydrogen.html
6 Stephen Hawking’s Universe – Aliens, May 10, 2010, Discovery Channel
7 http://www.solarviews.com/eng/europa.htm
8 Stephen Hawking’s Universe – Aliens, May 10, 2010, Discovery Channel
9 ibid.